Tuesday, January 9, 2018

On Oprah Winfrey: Indeed, a new day is on the horizon

It isn't often that an awards speech is so moving that it brings both men and women in the audience to their feet. Yet, in accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement during the 75th Golden Globes in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday night, media entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey did just that. She delivered such a moving, fire and brimstone speech that for many – including yours truly – it was the highlight of the nationally televised awards ceremony. It's certainly what everyone has been talking and tweeting about on social media over the past day.

Throughout the three-hour ceremony broadcast on NBC and hosted by late-night talk show personality Seth Meyers, it was encouraging to see the actors, writers, directors and others who walked the red carpet and later took the stage sharing important conversations and articulating a set of values that's been missing from our government leaders for the past year. There was plenty of talk about diversity and decency – and, of course, the #MeToo movement. If the power of women was on full display Sunday night – and it certainly was – then Oprah showed that without a doubt she was the most powerful woman in the Beverly Hilton ballroom on Sunday night.

"America is upside down and inside out," opined New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, writing about the Golden Globes ceremony. "There's meaningless make-believe in the capital of politics. There's meaningful politics in the capital of make-believe."

Thus, the appeal of what Ms. Winfrey said Sunday night – and the eloquence and immediacy of her voice in how she delivered her message – raised our collective consciousness about sexual abuse and harassment. She showed a fresh determination for all of us to rally around – something that's been sorely lacking in our current president. Bruni called Ms. Winfrey's address, "a glorious speech about how a yesterday of discrimination becomes a tomorrow of hope."

Bruni wrote: "One of the best routes, she noted, are role models. She recalled what it meant to her, when she was younger, to see Sidney Poitier receive Hollywood's highest accolades. And she wandered aloud what it might mean for little girls Sunday night to see her getting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment."

Veteran newsman Dan Rather, writing on his Facebook page Monday morning, said Ms. Winfrey's speech was "a bold and passionate call for hope, a rejection of the cynicism and darkness of the present."

Her words, Rather noted, "embodied the best traditions of American oratory. They rang with a moral clarity rooted in the march toward justice. They were not blind to the distance we have traveled as a nation and the distance yet to go. They were uplifting and inspiring, while recognizing that achieving progress will take work."

Among the many highlights of Ms. Winfrey's speech – and one which resonated with me – was when she spoke out about valuing freedom of the press.

"I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know the press is under siege these days. We also know it's the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies, I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I'm especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.

"But it's not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It's one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They're the women whose names we'll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they're in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They're part of the world of tech and politics and business. They're our athletes in the Olympics and they're our soldiers in the military."

Finally, Ms. Winfrey brought the Golden Globes audience to its feet when she said: "I want all of the girls watching here now to know, that a new day is on the horizon. And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say 'me too' again."

On Sunday night, many of us saw Ms. Winfrey as Madame President. Not only a spiritual leader but a brilliant woman, who unlike our current president, came from nothing and built a billion-dollar empire. She is well respected and loved. Her nine-minute speech gave us hope – and, certainly, she encouraged all of us to be inspired and to stand up and be heard, and also to be inspired for social justice. 

The Washington Post quoted actress Meryl Streep afterward saying that Ms. Winfrey "launched a rocket" with her speech. "I want her to run for president," Ms. Streep told The Post. "I don't think she had any intention (of declaring). But now she doesn't have a choice."

Certainly, it will be interesting to see if the seed planted by Ms. Winfrey's hopeful and inspiring speech grows into some bigger than anything we might imagine. Don't count out an Oprah for President possibility in 2020. 

Photo: Courtesy of Google Images. Video: Courtesy of YouTube.com. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Farewell 2017: Everyday we wrote the book

We are barely removed from the end of 2017,

which is a good thing because it was a very tough year in America.

We lost a lot of dear and talented people: 

Dick Enberg, Tom Petty, Mary Tyler Moore, come to mind.

And, there were lesser known but just as important ones we 

lost such as Maryam Mirzakhani, who was a Stanford 

mathematician. She worked like an artist, always drawing.

For nearly the entire year, we dealt with a President named Trump.

And, we know how well this has turned out for our country.

However, with the arrival of 2018, the first blank page of a 365-page,

year-long book that each of us will author began to be filled.

All of us start the New Year with a clean slate.

Hopefully, each of us will take the time to write a thoughtful book, 

be it a memoir or a best-selling novel,

day by day, page by page.

 With 2018 coming into clearer view, we welcome its challenges.

Remember, the words of Ecclesiastes, who said:

"The race is not to the swift,

nor the battle to the strong."

Life is to be enjoyed day by day,

 one day at a time.

Take time for family,

read a good book, 

listen to good music,

master a hobby like photography,

talk to good friends – and listen to them, too.

Support the arts, support newspapers.

Vote your conscience, but do vote!

Here's wishing you and your loved ones a Happy New Year.

May each of you enjoy cheers, love and peace on earth

in the New Year ahead.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

At the year's end, one last 2017 travel adventure

St. Patrick's Cathedral along Fifth Avenue.
It was Alan Alda, one of my country's most beloved and respected actors, whom many of us remember as Hawkeye Pierce in the long-running American TV series "M*A*S*H," who once gave a bit of wise advice that's resonated with me. As we awake to the final week of 2017, no matter where we may be or reside in the world, it's worth a moment of our time to think about what he said.

"You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself," said Alda.

Now that my wife and I live on the East coast, we enjoy escaping to New York City. It's only 3 1/2 hours by train – and Amtrak has several Northeast Regional trains that travel between Washington D.C.'s Union Station and New York City's Penn Station daily.

Since moving to the Beltway, we've traveled to New York City by train twice, most recently last weekend. Each time, there are new discoveries that await us and it provides us with a chance to rediscover old things from a different perspective.

The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular.
Whereas, our previous trip over Labor Day weekend was very much an Upper West Side experience, last weekend we found ourselves in the thick of the Christmas holiday revelry as we lodged a block off Times Square at the Hotel Muse on West 46th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. We were a short walk from Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall, where we caught a glimpse – along with thousands of other tourists – of the tall and majestic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and ice skating rink. Also, we saw the nearby festive holiday windows of Saks Fifth Avenue, the Neo-Gothic magnificence St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral, and took in a late Friday evening performance of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. The headlining Rockettes are truly a one-of-a-kind New York experience and Radio City Music Hall is an art deco masterpiece that has been truly well-preserved and taken care of over the years.

Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
On Saturday, we rode he subway to Herald Square – to the land of "Believe" – and shopped at Macy's flagship New York City store.

Then, we ventured to Grand Central Terminal to shop at a lovely boutique holiday fair and to also enjoy warm soup on what turned out to be a wet and cold wintry day.

Later, our evening included dining and listening to seasonal holiday music at Jazz at Lincoln Center – and it was most welcome and enjoyable.

We'll be back in 2018 to see Hamilton.
New York City is a place that never sleeps and I could never see myself getting bored. There's always plenty to see and do and admire and be curious about. I know we'll be back next year as we have tickets to see Hamilton.

I look forward to 2018 and the New Year that awaits. Hopefully, it will be a year full of new discoveries and travel adventures. I hope yours will be filled with new discoveries, too.

Safe travels and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

In 'Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool,' a femme fatale's passion and lust for her young lover are tested to the limits

Annette Benning (L) and Jamie Bell
star in Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool.
On Sunday morning, I attended a sneak preview of Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, a 2017 British-American romantic drama from director Paul McGuigan that stars four-time Academy Award nominee Annette Bening and Jamie Bell, co-stars Julie Walters, and includes a lovely cameo appearance by Vanessa Redgrave.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, which enjoyed its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September, arrives in theaters later this month at a very busy time of the year. Hopefully, it won't get lost in the shuffle of year-end blockbusters and Oscar contenders because it's worth our time and attention.

Based on a memoir of the same name by Peter Turner, the film follows a playful but passionate relationship between Turner (played by Jamie Bell of Billy Elliott fame) and the vibrant but eccentric Academy Award-winning actress Gloria Grahame (portrayed by 59-year-old Annette Bening, who I learned had been waiting 20 years to be age-appropriate to play the legendary Hollywood femme fatale). The film is set in late 1970s Liverpool, England. The glamorous Grahame had been a big name in 1940s film noir, but was not so famous in color. As we see during the 106-minute Sony Pictures Classics film, what starts as a vibrant affair between the actress Grahame and her young lover Turner quickly grows into a deeper, complicated – and at times salacious – relationship that is tested to the limits by events beyond their control.

"When Gloria was a young actress, there were many more 'good girls' and 'bad girls' and 'good mothers' and 'bad mothers,' and those stereotypes that were rampant in all storytelling about women," Bening said in a recent interview with Women's Wear Daily. "And I think now there's a lot of change going on and the reality of women's lives is getting voiced. And the reality of the complexity of things: somethings you've got it together, and sometimes you don't."

In the same interview, producer Barbara Broccoli added: "What's important to (Bening) in this role is that there is no veneer. She is completely real: she wanted to play a real woman, a complex woman, a woman of her age in this time of life, where she is reflecting on her life and her career and her relationships, and she's with a younger man and has this disease – it's very, very complex. And I think Annette's performance is so extraordinary because she has no vanity – she's just wanting to play it with as much truthfulness as possible."

Meanwhile, the English musician/songwriter Elvis Costello, a big fan of Gloria Grahame, contributed an original song, "You Shouldn't Look At Me That Way," composed specifically for the film. "'You Shouldn't Look At Me That Way' is a song dealing with two people who have a lot of secrets," says Costello. "They were in a relationship and perhaps had difficulty seeing each other as they really were. All lovers have secrets. One lover has some vanity but also a lot of vulnerability. The title really came from that. It could refer to a seductive gaze but also a plea not to be judged."

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool will be released in the U.S. on December 29. It is rated R for brief nudity.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Drawn to Purpose: Bringing to light the many contributions of American women illustrators and cartoonists

Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists is the newest Library of Congress exhibition (it opened November 18), and it brings to light many remarkable but little-known contributions by North American women which have been made in the popular art forms of illustration and cartooning.

The exhibition of nearly 70 works by 43 artists on display in the Thomas Jefferson Building's Graphic Arts Galleries at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. (through October 20, 2018) includes selected original works from the late 1800s to the present, and it shows the "gradual broadening in both the private and public spheres of women's roles and interests addressing such themes as evolving ideals of feminine beauty, new opportunities emerging for women in society, changes in gender relations, and issues of human welfare."

Drawn to Purpose features works from the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress, and selections in the exhibition are grouped by type, including: Golden Age illustration, early comics, new voices in comics, editorial illustration, magazine covers and cartoons, and political cartoons.

During a recent visit to Drawn to Purpose, I learned that in the fields of illustration and cartooning – fields it should be noted that have been traditionally dominated by men – many women have earned their livelihoods creating wonderful and expressive art that has found wide dissemination in not only newspapers but also in books and periodicals, too.

Some of the artists and their works will be familiar to visitors who come see the exhibition, such as Grace Drayton, whose wide-eyed, red-cheeked "Campbell Kids" debuted in 1909. Also, there's the longtime comic strip favorite "For Better or For Worse," created by Lynn Johnston; Persian Gulf War editorial illustrations drawn by Sue Coe and Frances Jetter; and "Mixed Marriage" by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast. A personal favorite of mine is Giséle by Elizabeth Shippen Green.

Although there was incremental progress made by women in illustration and cartooning from the 19th century into the early decades of the 20th century, it wasn't until the later 20th and early 21st century – as educational and professional opportunities grew – that we've finally witnessed women receive major acclaim from their peers.

Here's my takeaway: Drawn to Purpose demonstrates to us that although women were once constrained by gender bias, today, they have gained an immense number of new opportunities to self-express and discover. We are so fortunate.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A darkly comedic tale, "I, Tonya" never plays for laughs

With the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics just two months away, the release of Craig Gillespie's film "I, Tonya," a very dark, comedic tale of American figure skater Tonya Harding, which is based on the unbelievable but true events of what became one of the most sensational scandals in sporting history, is a very timely one.

I remember the sordid circumstances that played themselves out like an American prime-time soap opera nearly 24 years ago, and in watching a sneak preview of "I, Tonya," Sunday morning in Washington, DC., it all came crashing back to me.

Although Harding was the first American woman figure skater to complete a triple axel in competition, her athletic fete quickly took a backseat. Instead, her legacy became forever defined by her association with "an infamous, ill-conceived, and even more poorly executed attack" on her fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan just weeks before the 1994 Winter Olympics.

With an original screenplay written by Steven Rogers and featuring an early '80s soundtrack that will bring back memories, the film features a sympathetic portrayal of the fiery Harding by Margot Robbie, and also stars Sebastian Stan as Harding's conniving and often-abusive ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, and Allison Janney as Harding's acid-tongued, monstrous and outrageous mother LaVona Golden.

"I, Tonya," is at times absurd, other times irreverent. But, it's definitely worth two hours of your entertainment time this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

2017 Davis Cup: France's Noah made all the right moves

Raising La Coupe Davis / 2017 World Champions France

There's always so much pressure in France to win a Davis Cup. Especially, since a new generation of tennis "musketeers" featuring Gaël Monfils, Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are in their prime and have once again made France a competitive team.

When Belgium's mighty ace, World No. 7 David Goffin, leveled the 2017 Davis Cup championship tie at two points apiece after beating Tsonga convincingly in straight sets, 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-2, in the opening reverse singles on Sunday afternoon, many of the 25,000-plus passionate French fans who packed Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, France – just a few kilometers from the Belgian border – must have felt a collective, sinking feeling that their hopes of winning the Coupe Davis was slipping away for another year – again.

Imagine, the difficult decision that French captain Yannick Noah – the last Frenchman to win a Grand Slam when he triumphed at the 1983 French Open – faced in deciding to insert 23-year-old Lucas Pouille in the decisive fifth rubber instead of the more experienced Gasquet, 31. After all, Pouille was taken down by Goffin in Friday's first singles rubber, and Gasquet teamed with Pierre-Hugues Herbert to win Saturday's doubles rubber over Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore in four sets after having never previously played together.

Thus, for the second straight year, the Davis Cup championship came down to a fifth and final rubber. The winner takes home the Davis Cup. The loser gets parting gifts from the ITF and handshakes from the winners. So, there was just a little pressure riding on the outcome of the final tennis match of the year.

Looking back, Noah's decision proved brilliant – the right one. Pouille, ranked No. 18 in the world and born just 75km from Lille, beat an overmatched Steve Darcis, 6-3, 6-1, 6-0, in just one hour and 34 minutes. Pouille showed his dominance in the final set by winning 25 of 34 points against the No. 76 Darcis. Leave it to the captain to be the first to sprint out on court to hug and congratulate Pouille. The rest of the joyful French team soon followed.

After 16 years of struggle and frustration – including losing each of the past three finals (2002, 2010, 2014) it competed in – France finally won its 10th Davis Cup championship. It was their first title since they beat Australia in 2001. France drew even with Great Britain, but still trails the U.S., which has won the Davis Cup a record 32 times and second-place Australia with 28. Belgium, which lost the 2015 final to Great Britain, is still looking for its first Davis Cup title.

Yannick Noah leads a lively rendition of "La Marseillaise."
Cue up the "La Marseillaise!" Never has a winning French team and its fan sung France's national anthem more proudly than they did during the awards ceremony in Lille.

Asked to describe the feeling of winning the Davis Cup, Pouille said during an English-language TV interview following his clinching victory, "No words needed. We have finally won it.

"There's nothing better than winning as a team, with my mates, in front of the fans, my family and my friends. We're going to celebrate and make the most of it. I'm proud of my team."

Speaking for Belgium, Goffin, who improved to 21-3 in singles rubbers with his pair of wins over Pouille and Tsonga – his team's only point points during the tie – said: "It's a disappointment even if I played two good matches. When the team loses we're all disappointed. We gave it our all. It's tough to finish this way, but we did a lot of good things as a team this year."

So, too, did France, and it marked the third Davis Cup victory as captain for Noah, who came back in 2015 for a third stint as France's Davis Cup captain after he skippered his country's team twice in the 1990s – winning in 1991 and 1996.

Shortly after Pouille's clinching victory, Noah described what it all meant for France during a television interview. "It was a beautiful adventure," he said. "We had eight, nine players capable of playing. We had a terrific team spirit. It was really beautiful to win.

"We played for people we love. I'm very proud for my team."

Looking back, France, which advanced to the championship tie against Belgium with victories over Japan, Great Britain and Serbia, won with a committed group of players. Everyone understood and accepted their roles on the team – and this French squad showed its strength in numbers. Plus, Noah backed Pouille from the beginning despite his opening-day loss to Goffin. He would have been unmercifully second-guessed if France had been swept in the reverse singles after entering the final day ahead 2-1. Instead, it turned out to be a beautiful adventure, just as Noah pictured it. Looking ahead, Pouille's definitely the future of French tennis.

Vive la France!

Photos: Courtesy of ITF Davis Cup Twitter feed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Call Me By Your Name: A sensual and transcendent film

Call Me By Your Name / Sensual, transcendent, an Oscar contender.

Call Me By Your Name, a new film by Italian film director Luca Guadagnino, is a tender coming-of-age tale debuting this week that already has won over critics and audiences and is projected to be an Oscar contender.

A sensual and transcendent tale of first love, Call Me By Your Name is based on an acclaimed novel by André Aciman that is set in the summer of 1983 in the beautiful north of Italy countryside. My wife and I enjoyed The Cinema Club's sneak preview of the film Sunday morning in a northwest Washington, D.C. theater.

Call Me By Your Name
The central character in Call Me By Your Name is an American-Italian boy, Elio Perlman, 17 and precocious (wonderfully acted by 21-year-old Timothée Chalamet), who enjoys spending his high culture days in his family's 17th century villa transcribing and playing classical music on piano and guitar (Chalamet actually played both instruments in the film), reading books, swimming at the river, going out at night, and flirting – especially with his friend Marzia (played by Esther Garrel). It all sounds like innocent fun – and for the most part, it is. There's a certain sophistication and intellect about Elio for us to like and admire.

Throughout the 2 hour and 12 minute film, we see how Elio enjoys a close relationship with his parents. His father (played by Michael Stuhlbarg of HBO's Boardwalk Empire fame) is a classical archeologist specializing in Greco-Roman culture while his mother (played by Amira Casar) is a translator, who is always looking out for Elio's best cultural interests.

Indeed, Elio's interest is getting out in the world and experiencing things on his own, including having sex with both Marzia and with Oliver, a very charming and closeted 24-year-old American doctorate scholar (played by Armie Hammer), who is interning with Elio's father for the summer. Elio bonds with Oliver over their shared Jewish heritage, the Italian countryside they see together riding their bicycles, and his emerging sexuality. In this movie about desire, we soon learn, love means having no geography; it knows no boundaries.

During the second half of the film, the main focus is on physicality and emotions and the budding relationship between Elio and Oliver, in which Elio discovers the beauty of awakening desire and how it will alter his life forever. When Elio and Oliver kiss and engage in sex, it's all about figuring things out, both physically and emotionally. There are some long stretches without dialogue.

Near the conclusion, after Oliver has returned home, Elio's father pulls him aside and the two share a frank and accepting father-son talk about sexuality. Professor Perlman is very articulate when he conveys to his son to grow up and "be the person you needed when you were younger." Finally, Elio smiles at the end of this long scene. As the film's credits roll, we see him internalize what's happened in the entire movie.

Call Me By Your Name: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics • Rated R • 132 minutes • In English, Italian, French and German with English subtitles. • Directed by Luca Guadagnino • Screenplay by James Ivory • Original songs performed by Sufjan Stevens.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Reflections on patriotism: Dan Rather on what unites us

Dan Rather reads from his book 'What Unites Us.'
Dan Rather finds himself thinking deeply about what it means to love America as he surely does in the age of President Donald Trump.

At a time in our nation's history when there's a crisis over our national identity, the longtime broadcast journalist has surfaced as a calm, measured voice of reason and integrity. At 86, he has embraced social media, where he regularly contributes his thoughts and wisdom via his Facebook page, which has more than 2.5 million followers.

Last week, Rather's new book, What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, written with Emmy Award-winning journalist Elliot Kirschner, was published. In it, Rather has written a collection of 16 original and passionate essays that reflect on what it means to be an American in the 21st century.

During a recent book tour lecture at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., I listened attentively to Rather, in conversation with Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart. He discussed a variety of topics including patriotism and freedom of the press, whose values have transformed us and represent institutions that sustain our nation.

On the subject of patriotism, Rather read from his book: "Patriotism – active, constructive patriotism – takes work. It takes knowledge, engagement with those who are different from you, and fairness in law and opportunity. It takes coming together for good causes," he said. "This is one of the things I cherish most about the United States: we are a nation not only of dreamers but also of fixers. We have looked at our land and people , and said, time and again, this is not good enough; we can be better."

When asked about Capehart to discuss freedom of the press, Rather didn't hesitate when he responded: "We are the witness to the truth and there's a lot of good reporting going on out there. This president is pushing us toward a 'post-truth' and 'post-fact' political era.

"American journalism is at a crossroads," he continued. "News is what the public needs to know and it's generally what somebody else doesn't want you to know about."

Rather's storied career – he spent more than 40 years with CBS News and succeeded the legendary Walter Cronkite in the anchor chair for The CBS Evening News – has made him one of the world's best-known journalists. He's interviewed every president since Eisenhower. With decades spent on the front lines covering the world's biggest stories – from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the Vietnam War to the Watergate crisis that ended with the resignation of President Richard Nixon – Rather is able to offer his readers a unique if not intimate view of America's history and its historical change.

It's easy to gain from reading What Unites Us and by listening to Rather that regardless of the state of our current national political climate, he maintains a fundamental sense of hope that comes from sharing our nation's transformative values, from empathy to inclusion to service.

Photo of Dan Rather by Michael Dickens © 2017.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

In the age of internet, why public libraries are still relevant

Woodridge Neighborhood Library in Washington, D.C.

After moving to Maryland earlier this year, one of my top priorities was finding a good local public library. And I did, even if its across the District line in Washington. I visit the Woodridge Neighborhood Library, a branch of the District of Columbia Public Library system regularly – it's only a mile from our new home – and depending upon the time of the day, the library is often filled with people availing themselves to some of the many services offered. Indeed, it's a very positive environment, which opened to the public on September 28, 2016, to much fanfare.

I've seen high school students doing their homework, college students writing their dissertations, younger kids enjoying reading time, adults searching electronic job boards. A public library is a living room where one can go and feel human instead of feeling threatened. For some, including many young students, a neighborhood public library like Woodridge represents the only wi-fi source available to them for free. With 40 desktop computers with internet access available for use, this public library's value isn't lost on its patrons.

There is a warm, community-oriented ambiance inside the 20,000 square-foot Woodridge Neighborhood Library – not to mention a modern design by Wiencek + Associates and Bing Thom Architects that spreads throughout the library's two floors. It's open seven days a week and stays open late Monday through Thursday until 9 p.m.

Indeed, public libraries serve as a valuable bridge between the information-rich and the information-poor. Within these welcoming confines – and the Woodridge Branch is very welcoming – librarians provide a highly skilled service that meets the needs of the general public. I speak with the authority of someone who is married to a librarian.

As our public libraries play a vital role bridging the digital divide and teaching people how to get reliable information from the internet – something that's become very important following the Russian meddling scandal during the 2016 presidential election – it is for this very reason that we need our public libraries now more than ever despite living in an age when most everyone has broadband and can access information without recourse to a librarian.

While I appreciate that my local public library is open seven days a week, many public libraries have limited hours. Federal funding of public libraries has decreased by nearly 40 percent since 2000 and now – more than ever – they need our support not our dismantling.

There is something of important value gained from the physical, communal space of a library, and our public libraries need to continue to be able to provide highly skilled services in order to meet the needs of the general public – not to mention continuing their valuable mission of being repositories for books. I believe they ought to continue to innovate in order to take advantage of the way people are interacting with their libraries, which differs today than it did 10 years ago – even five years ago. There is a digital gap we need to continue bridging between those who have access to the internet and those who do not.

At local public libraries, there are core services such as book loans, study materials for local and national elections, availability of federal and state income tax guides and forms, and weekday and Saturday story hours for children, that remain vital. And, of course, where would we be without our librarians? They may be physical people – hopefully never replaceable by robots – and in the age of Google, their purpose remains valuable.

It's my hope that everyone does what they can to support their own local public libraries, especially now in the age of President Trump's self-proclaimed "fake news." After all, an ill-informed society that is ill-equipped to prosper in today's "information age" is a dangerous prospect for any democracy.

Learn more about the Woodridge Neighborhood Library by clicking on the link.

Photo: Courtesy of DCLibrary.org.